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Software Mind Tools





I found this article on a great website and thought the members of the group might be interested.

Computers and Human Potential in the New Millennium
by Bruce Eisner

Imagine a future in which your personal computer becomes a 
doorway into a world of enhanced intelligence and creativity, 
emotional stability and previously unrealized personal success. In 
this world, the computer has become more than just a word 
processor or a web browser; it has become both an instantaneous 
communication tool for contacting seminar leaders or personal 
therapists and an interactive councilor that uses artificial 
intelligence to provide personal coaching and wise guidance. Or 
even further in the future, computer aided methods of 
transformation of human consciousness. 

Could that colorful screen upon which you may be reading this 
become that door? This is a question that has intrigued those who 
have studies the potential of the PC, and the answer may be that 
this reality is closer than we realize. Before we look ahead and 
examine the possibilities, let's take a brief glimpse backward at the 
history if the mind/computer connection. 

A Brief History of Software "Mind Tools" 
The notion that computers could be tools for mental development 
and transformation goes back further than the personal computer. 
Joseph Weisenbaum, a professor at MIT in the 1960's developed a 
program on a mainframe that he called Eliza, which imitated a 
psychotherapist of the Rogerian school by rephrasing what the user 
said or sometimes posing a oddball question about his or her 
mother - from out of the blue.  Although meant to be a kind of 
joke, a comment on artificial intelligence, he was astounded to find 
people having real conversations with his newly created program, 
and some found that they liked talking to it better than their flesh- 
and-blood "shrink." 

The earliest company to harness the earliest PCs, Macs, 
Commodores and Apples in the early `Eighties was Human Edge -- 
founded by Dr. James Johnson, a former psychology professor 
from the University of Minnesota and a salesman for IBM. 
Johnson's company developed a program called Mind Prober, still 
the most successful mind-related software ever sold with an 
amazing one-quarter million sold in the world of 1985, when there 
were only perhaps only four million PC's in the entire world. This 
would be the equivalent of selling five million programs in today. 

Mind Prober was and is simply a computerized personality profile. 
It's the descendent of tests like those you probably took in school 
but never got to see the results - or the MMPI test that is used to 
classify people with mental disorders. What is so remarkable about
Mind Prober and its descendents is that with the answering of a 
short questionnaire, they reveal so much about your own 
personality of the personality of someone you've known for only a 
short while. This is because they are based on one of the most solid 
parts of the mostly unsystematic study called psychology - 
psychometrics. 

Psychometrics is the basis of personality testing, and can measure 
and describe personality by comparing answers to the test on paper 
or, in this case, in the computer program with groups of people 
with known personality attributes. The unique way that specific 
personality type answers certain questions gives the personality 
test program uncanny insight into what seem to be hidden 
dimensions of an individual. 

These early psychological programs were text-based CGA graphic 
programs. But both programs proved fascinating to many people 
with psychological curiosity including a graduate student named 
Bruce Ehrlich, who was just about to complete a Ph.D. in 
psychology and who had collected a series of programs he called 
Mindware. 

Ehrlich published his first collection of mind software in the 
Spring 1988 Mindware catalog. It probably is no accident that two 
of the most popular programs in that catalog were a modern 
version of Eliza for the PC (the first ones only ran on mainframes), 
and Mindviewer, an upgrade to Mind Prober. Another popular 
program was Calmpute! manufactured by Thought Technology of 
Toronto, Canada - a biofeedback program that measured galvanic 
skin response. A special mouse measured your GSR  and displayed 
the results on a computer screen. By discovering what kind of 
things you did to make the display graph change, you could learn 
to control your levels of stress and relaxation. 

The Mindware catalog continued in its print version from 1988 
until 1993 when it reached a circulation of a half million catalogs.. 
Programs became increasingly sophisticated and diverse. Among 
the most noteworthy of the new offerings in the catalog were: 
* Overcoming Depression -- A program by computer-assisted 
therapy expert Professor Thomas Colby, based on his research at 
Stanford and UCLA. 
* IQ Builder --A program developed by Russian-born 
programmer Vladimer Asinovsky which measures 53 components 
of human intelligence and trains people in developing these 
abilities in incremental levels (Note: Mind Media now publishes this program!) 
* Insight -- a psychometric testing program that was the first to 
take advantage of increases in computer graphics. The program 
used the Kahler Process Model first developed by Dr. Tabi Kahler 
for NASA to provide deep psychological insight. Unfortunately, 
the company that developed the program over a four-year period - 
Three-Sixty, Inc. of San Jose -- was forced to take the program off 
the market when Dr.Kahler's wife, who had won control of the test 
in divorce, blocked continued sales. 
* Dream Analyzer - a test which allowed people to analyze the 
contents of their dreams developed by Dr. James Johnson (Note: Mind 
Media publishes this program and it is included in Mind Prober 3.0) 
* PC Therapist - a program by Joseph Weintraub which did 
Eliza one better, winning the Loebner award by beating the 
famous Touring Test, in which a British cybernetics expert 
in the 'Fifties suggested a test for machine intelligence 
which consisted of the ability to fool people into believing 
they were talking to a real human over a teletype devise. 
* Idea Generator Plus - a program developed by Roy 
Nierenberg, founder of Experience-In-Software 
(http://www.experienceware.com). The Program is based on 
Gerard Nierenberg's (the founder's father), book The Art of 
Creative Thinking and presents an interactive process based on 
exercises from the book, for developing new ideas on the user 
project of choice. 

Mind Software Today 
In 1994, Ehrlich moved the Mindware catalog to the World Wide 
Web and began to focus on publishing some of his best sellers 
from the Mindware catalog as the Mental Edge software series and 
creating a web site which has evolved into the Mind Media Life- 
Enhancement Network (http://www.mindmedia.com). Ehrlich 
plans to develop this site into the central source for products and 
information about the mind software technology on the Web. 

Ehrlich's Mindware catalog was the first direct mail catalog to 
offer CD-ROM players and CD-ROMs to the public by direct mail. 
Ehrlich understood that the greater amounts of multimedia 
information held by CD-ROMs would contribute to mind software 
that was both more effective and that would provide users a richer, 
friendlier experience. 

On his Mind Media Life-Enhancement Network site, he launched an 
electronic version of his print catalog -- Mindware Interactive 
Online Catalog (http://www.mindmedia.com/products.html) --, 
which lists many of these new CD-ROMs. Mind Media's 
Complete Guide to Self-Improvement and Mental Development 
on the Web (http://www.mindmedia.com/linkspace/pages/). The 
latter a "Yahoo-like" directory and search engine for the entire 
scope of self-help, self-improvement and mental development sites 
on the Web, features some of the products we mention below at http://www.mindmedia.com/linkspace/pages/mindsoft.shtml. 


About a year ago, David Marshall's Journeyware New Media 
published a CD-ROM, Your Mythic Journey. The software 
presented a seminar-on-a-disk by best-selling psychology author 
Sam Keen. The program used a multimedia authoring system 
called Macromind Director, which allows the disk to be used by 
both Windows and Macintosh systems. 

It works by combining video visits with Sam Keen, (who beams 
down like a Startrek officer using the "transporter" into a series of 
beautiful graphic environments) with interactive exercises 
designed to explore the past, present and future of your personal 
mythic journey through life. What makes the program especially 
enjoyable is the graphical environments created by David 
Marshall's brother, a highly creative computer artist. . 
You can find out more at http://www.mindmedia.com/mythicj.html

With the introduction of this CD-ROM, mind software had taken a 
giant step forward, with the user finding that they can continue to 
gain value through exploring their lives. A series of other CD- 
ROM titles began to be released including one by John Gray, Ph.D. 
based on his best-selling book, Men are from Mars, Women are 
from Venus, a relationship seminar-on-a-disk and many others. 

In addition to these new CD-ROM based interactive multimedia 
presentations, a number of new software programs with increased 
features have been released. One program, from BrainTainment 
(http://www.brain.com), called ThinkFast, measures and coaches 
users on increasing a variety of mental abilities including memory, 
cognitive abilities and reflexes. Using a high quality graphical 
interface running in the Windows environment, programs like 
these and those that follow may become "mind gyms", a term that 
Bruce Ehrlich of Mind Media began using around 1990 to describe 
the potential of this type of mind software 
(http://newciv.org/GIB/BOV/BV-488.HTML) 

Another area that has taken great leaps forward since the early 
Mindware catalog days is the area of computers and biofeedback. 
Biofeedback first became popular in the `Sixties. Biofeedback was 
invented by Professor Joe Kamiya, who first discovered that the 
brain could actually control processes in the body and brain 
previously thought only to be under control of the autonomic 
nervous system, which was considered to be completely 
unavailable to consciousness. By feeding back signals from 
various body and brain processes, people could learn to control 
how they felt and thought! 

The earliest devices were simple ones that measured GSR or EEG 
and gave a simple noise like a tone so that the user could learn to 
control these body and brain functions. Because they were rather 
boring to use and because they looked at only one modality of the 
particular process they monitored, these biofeedback systems 
quickly lost their popularity. 

However biofeedback clinics continued to operate and help people 
with a variety of tasks including stress reduction and control of 
migraine headaches and even blood pressure control. With the 
invention and increasing sophistication of the PC however, these 
tools have made remarkable progress. 

A number of biofeedback systems that interact with the personal 
computer have been developed. These include such sophisticated 
new products as the IBVA system, which includes a biofeedback 
system that will read EEG or brainwaves, rather than the more 
simple GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) systems which simply 
measured the skin's ability to conduct electricity and allows for 
comparisons between the brain's left and right hemisphere. The 
screen shows a three-dimensional graph while speakers let you 
hear the sound of your brain waves rise and fall. There are even a 
number of CD-ROM programs that allow you to use the IBVA 
system in new and more useful ways. 

There are several other computer based biofeedback systems 
including the Neuolink developed by NLP expert Robert Dilts, the 
Stress Saver Systems biofeedback system with mind games, and 
the WaveRider Pro Biofeedback System with WaveWare 2.0 
software. As you can see, we have come a long way since the first 
Mindware catalog offered Calmpute!. 

The Near Future 
Bruce Ehrlich of Mind Media has plans for his Mind Media Life 
Enhancement Network which give us an idea about where the field 
of mind software may be heading in the next few years. 

Ehrlich plans to begin broadcasting seminars with popular self- 
improvement leaders and self-help writers using streaming audio 
and video technology. This technology is already being 
successfully used by companies like NetSeminar 
(http://www.netseminar.com) to successfully broadcast educational 
seminars on a variety of topics. You can actually interact with the 
seminar leaders online, making it more than the passive experience 
presented by audio or video tapes or reading a self-help book. 


Ehrlich is also developing a new kind of CD-ROM seminar that 
uses "hybrid" CD-ROM technology. This would allow for 
continuous updates of content on CD-ROMS from the Mind Media 
web site -- allowing the user for example to get additional sessions 
and information from seminar leaders whose CD-ROM they had 
purchased. 

The use of on-line programs written in Java will make available 
on-line pay-per-use versions of popular mind software. This pay- 
per-use model is already being done on the BrainTainment Center 
Web site at http://www.brain.com. The whole genre of mind 
software for creativity, problem solving, psychotherapy etc. will. 
be available on-line anytime. 

The Far Realms of Computers and the Mind 
In 1990, Simon and Shuster published Would the Buddha Wear a 
Walkman? by Judith Hooper and Dick Terisi, both editors at Omni 
magazine at the time and co-authors of the best selling book, The 
Three-Pound Universe. 

In the chapter, "Using Your Computer to Expand Your Mind", they 
say: 

The computer is more than a number crunching word processing, 
artificial brain. In the right hands it's also a mind-expanding, 
creativity-boosting, even mind-altering tool. We have already 
accepted the microcomputer as a machine that can assume some of 
our tedious menial chores. But it has a potential as a mind- 
enhancing device as well. And the key is the software. 

We have divided the field into five categories: smartware (which 
makes you smarter, more organized, a better writer, a better 
negotiator), psychological software (such as Eliza), stressware 
(aimed at reducing anxiety), games/head trips (trips into alternative 
realities) and spiritual software (intended to make you deeper). 

Thus far we have looked at some of the kinds of software programs 
the authors predicted. But as the technology of the compute leaps 
forward and our understanding of the mind become increasingly 
better, some of these other more far-out mind/computer software 
programs will become possible. 

Ehrlich, in the above-mentioned book, is written about as "The 
Mindware Man: Bruce Ehrlich and Digital Psychology." In this 
section, they write: 

Ehrlich predicts that such software [mind software] will eventually 
transform computer-human interactions. "The computer," he says," 
will become a friend." He foresees a dramatic growth in future 
years in what he calls "electronic Buddhas." This is a program 
designed to enhance the users spirituality. Another growth area is 
"psychoactive software."

How can a computer become a wise Buddha or guide? Or become 
psychoactive. Here are some of my wild-eyed guesses. 

One of the most important theoretical areas in computer science 
concerns artificial intelligence. One area of AI is expert systems. 
For example, a computer is trained to emulate a medical doctor in 
diagnosing a disease. These programs already exist, and have 
shown to be superior to human doctors in many cases in 
pinpointing illnesses. 

Imagine then the computer developing an expert system model of a 
Zen master or psychotherapist. Expert systems that go far beyond 
Eliza's simple trickery to programs that teach real wisdom. 

Now combine this with biofeedback, the technology we have 
talked about below. The most recent biofeedback breakthroughs 
have involved the recording and training of actual altered states of 
consciousness experiences. There actually has been recording 
flesh-and-blood Zen Masters as they enter Samadhi, the highest 
state of being in the Zen school. 

Already, computers are giving us multimedia biofeedback rather 
than the primitive tones of three decades ago. Certainly at the 
current rate of technological progress, virtual reality will becomes 
available as an interface on the home PC. Already there is a 
graphical VRML (virtual reality markup language). Soon, goggles 
and gloves will supplement screen and mouse. 

Consider the power of a virtual reality computerized biofeedback 
system. A system augmented by an artificially intelligent computer 
coach. Or perhaps a real human guiding a group of people over the 
Web.  Still another possibility, a group of humans supporting 
each other in their exploration consciousness linked up through a 
computer network. Shades of virtual group therapy! 

As we look to the future of software for enlarging the capacity of 
the human mind and consciousness, we see 

* The power of computers doubling every two years, 
* The creation of a global community"-linking everyone's 
  homes by PC through interactive video and the World Wide Web 
* New technologies such as biofeedback and virtually-reality 
  ready for primetime. 
* The rapid and dramatic breakthroughs in our understanding of 
  the brain, consciousness and behavior. 

Computers and software as an expander of human intellect, 
creativity and consciousness has a glorious future that we only 
begin to imagine. 
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Mind Media 
849 Almar Ave. Suite C-125 
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 
For more information or to order call 800 818-9445 
Our catalog is at http://www.mindmedia.com/products.html
+ + + 
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more! 
For comments or contributions, send e-mail to (bruce@mindmedia.com) 
Copyright 1999, Mind Media,Inc. 




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